JIM OF THE HILLS by C.J. Dennis
II. A LONELY MAN
When I'm out among the fellows, with the work to hold my mind,
Then there's heaps of joy in livin' an' the world seems awful kind -
Awful kind an' awful jolly, with no trace of melancholy,
An' I tell myself the bloke that don't enjoy it must be blind -
When I'm out among the fellows; but, when I am sittin' here,
Dreamin' by my lonely fireside, then the world gets kind of queer.
I suppose it's how you take it: what they call the point of view;
An' a man don't look for dreamin' when there's work for him to do.
But he can't be ever toilin', an' at times he gets to spoilin'
All the joy the day has brought him - when he lets the black thoughts through.
It suppose it's livin' lonely, as a fellow never should;
For a lonely man gets broodin', and the broodin' isn't good.
It's never good, the sayin' is, for man to live alone.
But 'tain't because I like it that I'm batchin' on my own,
For a bloke must take what's goin', an' my life ain't all been growin'
Daffodils and hummin' dance tunes just to give my soul a tone.
It's muscle I've had to grow since days when I was small,
An' all the muscle that I've made is with the axe an' maul.
When folks are poor an' toil is hard an' times are harder still
A boy soon learns the use of time if he would eat his fill.
Long before I'd finished schoolin' I had put aside my foolin'.
Till now, at thirty an' a bit, I'm workin' at a mill.
It isn't much; then then my folks knew that my chance was dim,
Or they might have named me Reginald instead of just plain Jim.
Just Jim the Hatter, Lonely Jim, the bloke that don't say much.
I've heard how people talk of me: the gossipers an' such.
An' they say I'm slow at givin'; but I've got my way of livin',
An' I've got my bit of farm-land an' a house that ain't a hutch.
An' tho it hurts if this man sneers or that misunderstands,
I'm proud to know that all I've got was earned with my two hands.
Suppose I don't go gay at times an' throw around the cash:
It's knowin' want that frightened me from gettin' over rash.
I know I'm keen on savin'; but the pinchin' and the slavin'
An' the starvin' in the old days keeps a man from bein' flash.
I never treated neighbours mean or grudged a man a pound;
But I ain't out to buy loud cheers by throwin' it around.
An' after all - well, I don't know - it sums up much the same;
No matter how a man has lived, no matter what his aim -
If it's savin', if it's spendin' - all his life is just a blendin'
Of the gay days an' the grey days: an' he's got to play the game.
So where's the use of grumblin' if the game don't suit your bent?
I tells myself this all night - an' yet I ain't content.
There's days that sometimes come to me when toilin's simple bliss,
An' every little job becomes a joy I wouldn't miss:
When the labour seems like playin', an' I catch myself a-sayin',
"Why, it's grand to think a man gets paid for doin' things like this!"
But, after, came the lonely night, when I've looked back an' said,
"To think I have to slave like that to earn a bit of bread!"
When I'm out among the fellows, oh, the world's a place to prize;
But here, beside my lonely fire, the glamour of it dies.
Sittin' here I take to gettin' gloomy views of things, an' frettin'
Till my dog looks up, and wonders, with a question in his eyes.
He's been my mate for years an' years, an' things that folks don't see
Both good an' bad has been thrashed out by my old dog an' me.
Well he knows he's safe for sharin' while I've got a bite an' sup.
When I'm fit, he's full of frolic, laughin' like a silly pup
Out for fun. But when I'm feelin' sad at night, he just comes stealin'
To the fire an' stretches out there with his brown eyes lookin' up,
Lit with such a queer soft sadness that I feel it isn't fair
My own private little worries spoils the evenin' for the pair.
Here, to-night, I've sat an' told him - while his tail flopped on the floor -
Of particular conditions that have got me feelin' sore.
An' my present little worry is the matter of Ben Murray
An' his sudden-like attentions to the widow at the store.
I ain't nothin' to the widow, as Ben Murray ought to see;
But I hear he's taken fight lately, with some reference to me.
I ain't nothin' to the widow - not as yet, at any rate;
Tho' a bloke can't be dead certain what is like to be his fate.
But I own that I've been thinkin', an' there ain't no use in blinkin'
At the fact a man must settle down before it gets too late.
I ain't nothing to the widow - don't know that I ever will.
Seems to me it's awful reckless takin' lifelong chances - still...
Me an' my old dog's been talkin' quite a lot - of love an' things:
Weighin' matters; an' we reckon this here love is full of stings,
Fuller than a stingin' nettle. If a fellow wants to settle
He needs solid care an' comfort, not the stuff the poet sings.
Love an' all that talk, we reckon, is a silly sort of fake -
What's a plain man wantin' further if his wife can wash and bake?
I ain't nothin' to the widow ... Neither is Ben Murray though!
An' he won't find me unwillin' if he wants a little go.
I'm not over-keen on fightin'; but his boastin' and his skitin'
Puts my back up; an' his sneerin' often gets down pretty low.
Course, the widow's never mentioned - that's to say, by name, outright;
But I know what's gnawin' at him when I hear he's talking fight.
Talkin' fight an' acting' ugly: not reel earnest, half an' half -
Shootin' sneers into his smilin', slingin' spite nto his chaff.
Tho' a fight I'm never shirkin', when I'm with the fellows, workin',
I can give him good as he does, an' just take it with a laugh.
But at evenin' when I'm broodin', I chew over all the lot,
Till his jokes swell into insults an' his hintin' makes me hot.
He can have it - if he wants it! He won't be too long denied!
But I've heard he's mentioned fivers - wants to fight five pounds a side.
If I'm licked, of course, I lose it; an' that fool and will go and booze it:
Throw it clean into the gutter with the other cash he's shied.
I been told to-day he's saying' that his fiver saves his skin. . . .
Wonder what he meant, the blighter, that should make the fellows grin. . . .
Jumpin' Moses! . . . He can have it! Anywhere an' anywhen!
Fivers? let him talk of fivers! Holy wars, I'll make it ten!
He'll get fightin', too, in plenty. If he likes I'll make it twenty!
We shall see whose skin is safest an' whose hide is toughest then.
I ain't got no grudge against him - only what the rotter's said.
I ain't nothin' to the widow! ... Here, old dog, we'll get to bed.